“…Connected devices are just beginning to slip into homes, from smart thermostats to apps that unlock your door without a key…as the internet of things is poised to remake our homes and offices, it’s facing perhaps its most critical test: adoption by the average consumer. The intelligent future promised by entrepreneurs won’t catch on if those devices can’t connect to each other automatically, lack intuitive programmability, or aren’t appealing designed. If they fail at any one of these, automating our homes may be more trouble than its worth.“
I argue that this intelligent future won’t arrive as some brave new world of scary robots, descending on us en masse. And you certainly won’t bring it all home in one bag.
“The best, easiest-to-use smart objects will likely look no different than devices we use today, Faludi points out. “A big chunk of this will just be baked into things that we buy,” he says. “You won’t buy an ‘internet of things.’“
About a week ago we had the marvelous opportunity to teach a three-day outreach workshop in wireless sensor networking and environmental monitoring at the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. Our 24 students were educators, scientists and engineers from Malawi, Nicaragua, India, Ecuador, Venezuela, West Gambia, Philippines, USA, South Africa, Tanzania, Jamaica, Columbia, Ukraine, Argentina and Albania. Marco Zennaro coordinated the workshops and was tremendously helpful and generous to us. Jordan Husney lectured and taught alongside me, both of us fueled by copious amounts of Italian espresso, administered under Marco’s watchful eye.
Some of our topics included:
Introduction to Wireless Sensor Networking
Industrial Applications of Wireless Sensor Networking
Fun with XBees
Fundamentals of Wireless Sensor Networking
Basic XBee Chat
Basic ZigBee Chat
Simple Sensor Network
XBee Internet Gateway (XIG)
iDigi via XIG
Building Environmental Sensors
Environmental Sensing: Outdoor Lab
Digi generously donated our time and many of the materials for these workshops. The students successfully built all kinds of networks using XBee radios, ConnectPort gateways, the XIG software, iDigi and iDigi Dia. They will take what they’ve learned back home to build a wide variety of environmental systems for agriculture, solar schoolhouses, water quality, radiation sensing, energy, emergency response and many other purposes.
Here’s some photos from our global educational venture:
Recognizing excellence in all areas of design enterprise, the Core77 Design Awards celebrates the richness of the design profession and its practitioners. For our second year, we present 17 categories of entry, providing designers, researchers and writers a unique opportunity to communicate the intent, rigor and passion behind their efforts. From client work to self-initiated projects, entrepreneurial to pro-bono engagements, we embrace a wide diversity of enterprise: commercial, cultural, social, environmental and discursive.
For 17 years Core77.com has provided a gathering point for professional designers and design enthusiasts. They publish articles, host lectures, create exhibits and design competitions, and offer databases and forums used by the entire design community. It’s an honor to work with such a terrific group of jurors for one of the design community’s most high-profile awards. Want to win? You can start by watching the video below, then registering!
The Transpiration project that started in my Sensitive Buildings class at NYU’s ITP was commissioned by 240 Central Park South to be a permanent installation in the courtyard of the building. It opened last night to a crowded gala reception. Transpiration is a data-driven, reactive projection of a forest that is influenced by the motion of the building’s elevators and the flux of people in and out of the building. The data is collected using security cameras deployed in the four elevators and projected as an outdoor display approximately two stories tall and 70 feet wide. The work gives residents who do not have a park view an alternative organic vista that changes dynamically throughout the evening.
Jim Korein, one of the building’s owners, commissioned the work and sponsored the opening party. Residents in attendance gushed about the work, and Jim reported that the class and artworks had actually created a cooperative culture that distinctly transformed the tenant-management relationship for the best.
Transpiration is a work by Gabrielle Levine, Jack Kalish, Toby Schachman and Emily Webster. Sensitive Buildings was supported by NYU, Digi International and historic 240 Central Park South’s Omnispective Corp.
A new A380 carried me to the WaveForum conference in balmy Nice, on the French Rivera. There, somewhat bleary-eyed, I delivered a talk on the XBee Internet Gateway to customers and partners that explained the functions of the gateway, the value of open-source and the projects the XIG enables for Make: Live, ICTP and my Sensitive Buildings students. Quite the coup for something that was born in a few lines of code late at night in my home lab in late 2008! The next day I delivered my soon-to-be-classic Fun with XBees talk. That presentation shows off all the creative innovations enabled by XBee radios in the artist, scientist, maker, designer and inventor communities. It makes people smile.
I got to connect with a lot of Digi’s customers from European telecom industrialists to Croatian electrical engineering graduate students. And after a delicious lunch of mussels and fries, it is off to Italy for five days of teaching science sensor networking through UNESCO at ICTP.
The Advanced Kit for my Building Wireless Sensor Networks book is now finally available from SparkFun electronics! If you got the BWSN Basics Kit and still want more, the BWSN Advanced Kit can complete your array of tools and components to do every project in the book. This kit includes the key items you’ll need to complete the more advanced example projects in Building Wireless Sensor Networks. With this kit you can go “over the border” from your mesh network to the Internet, learn about home automation by exploring power control, post data using the XBee Internet Gateway software and more. Plus, you’ll save money over buying all these components separately.
2x Arduino Uno R3, 2x PowerSwitch Tail II, 1x ConnectPortx2, 1x XBee 2mW – series 2x, 1x 9V to Barrel Jack Adapter, 1x TMP36 IC, 1x XBee Explorer USB, 1x AA Battery Holder with Cover and Switch, 1x 6′ miniUSB Cable, 1x LM1117 Voltage Regulator, 1x 6′ USB A-B Cable, 1x 9V Wall Wart, 1x 2N3904 Transistor, 1x DC Barrel Jack Connector
Just back from a Los Angeles journey to call on various innovators in my role as Collaborative Strategy Leader for Digi International. First, I paid a visit to statistics professor and data expert Mark Hansen at UCLA’s Center for Embedded Networked Sensing. Mark is currently investigating what he calls “participatory sensing, projects that engage the general public in non-professional practices of data collection and analysis.” He also is involved with the New York Times, most notably the “Moveable Type” art installation featured in the lobby of the Times headquarters. We talked about citizen science, understanding the context for data, reckoning, estimation, and making the most of data even when it’s biased and inconsistent. I’m looking forward to getting more of his input on the iDigi device cloud as we move forward with enhancing its data management capabilities.
Next up was a visit to Culver City’s premier hacker hangout, Crash Space where Carlyn Maw and Tod Kurt of ThingM showed me around. We looked at their vast array of nifty parts and solid span of tools-both the 3D printer and old-school band saw variety. Then we tossed around ideas for putting together a hacker space challenge that aims to spur amazing new projects based on the iDigi platform. ThingM, by the way, produces various components to make prototyping with lights easy. My favorite example is the WineM smart rack that links physical bottles to a networked database for wine collectors—a fine start for an M2M network.
The Machine Project art space has been on my list ever since Botanicalls was exhibited there in 2007. It’s a storefront in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles that hosts events from scientific talks to group naps; shows collaborative projects from baby-controlled electronic music to collections of carnivorous plants; and hosts workshops on topics from electronics to pickling. Mark Allen showed us around the space, then we talked about holding workshops on connecting devices to the Internet and generalizing some of the sensor networking projects we’re planning with Exploratorium and Storefront for Art & Architecture.
Lots going on with sensors, technology, art and innovation in L.A. Looking forward to my next visit. Who else should I see? Let me know in the comments…